Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

What are the findings of the 2024 Hindu Kush Himalayas snow update? | Explained


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Data related to Low snow persistence

Mains level: Role of climate change in low levels of snowmelt this year

Why in the news?

In 2024, the Hindu Kush Himalaya snow update from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) reported that the Ganga River basin, India’s largest, experienced its lowest recorded snow persistence.

What does the report by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development highlight?

  • Record Low Snow Persistence: The Ganga River basin, along with the Brahmaputra and Indus basins, reached record low snow persistence in 2024.
  • Significant Declines: The Ganga basin recorded its lowest snow persistence in 22 years, 17% below the long-term historical average. The Brahmaputra basin was 14.6% below normal, and the Indus basin fell 23.3% below normal.
  • Broader Impacts: Similar low snow persistence was recorded in the Amu Darya and Helmand river basins, significantly below normal levels.

How important is snow persistence?

  • Water Supply: Snow persistence, the fraction of time snow is on the ground, is crucial as its melt provides significant water to streams and ecosystems.
  • Runoff Contribution: Snowmelt contributes 23% of the runoff to the HKH region’s 12 major river basins, supporting nearly one-fourth of the world’s population.
  • Regional Significance: The HKH mountains, known as the “water towers of Asia,” are vital for 10 major river systems, including the Ganga, Brahmaputra, and Indus, which are essential freshwater sources for millions.

How much of a role does climate change play in river basins receiving low levels of snowmelt this year?

  • Weak Western Disturbances: Lower persistence in 2024 was primarily due to weak Western disturbances, which are low-pressure systems bringing rain and snow to the HKH region.
  • Global Warming Effects: Climate change and global warming destabilize weather patterns, exacerbating prolonged La Niña–El Niño conditions, and influencing the arrival and intensity of western disturbances.
  • High Sea-Surface Temperatures: Persistently high sea-surface temperatures in the regions where western disturbances originate disrupt their formation, leading to reduced snowfall.
  •  Changed the weather system: The pattern of high temperatures and altered weather systems explains both the record low snow persistence in 2024 and similar historical records.

Way forward:

  • Integrated Water Management: Develop comprehensive water management plans that incorporate predictions of reduced snowmelt. This includes optimising reservoir operations, prioritising water allocation, and implementing efficient irrigation practices to mitigate water scarcity risks.
  • Transboundary Collaboration: Foster regional cooperation among countries sharing river basins affected by declining snow persistence. Develop joint strategies for sustainable water management, disaster risk reduction, and climate change adaptation. This includes sharing hydrological data, coordinating emergency responses, and implementing mutual benefit agreements.
  • Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Strengthen efforts to mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions at local, national, and international levels. Promote renewable energy sources and sustainable practices to curb global warming, thereby stabilising weather patterns crucial for snowfall.

Mains PYQ:

Q Climate change’ is a global problem. How India will be affected by climate change? How Himalayan and coastal states of India will be affected by climate change? (15) (UPSC IAS/2017)

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